If you’re a Portland foodie who loves the “Stuck in the Middle” menu at Chaval and knows that Gross is a dessert restaurant in the Old Port, not a commentary on the aggressive gulls trying to steal your Duckfat fries, then Dennis Bailey’s “Eat Like A Local – Maine” is probably not for you. But you might want to send it to that California cousin or old college roommate who’s coming for a summer visit.

This short guide to Maine food and drink was written by a native Mainer. Photo courtesy of Dennis Bailey

Bailey is a Maine native, former newspaper reporter, and former communications director for former Gov. Angus King. He now works in public relations in Washington, D.C., but it’s clear from this 81-page Maine food guide that much of his heart (or at least his stomach) remains in his home state.

“Eat Like a Local – Maine,” published in February and available on Amazon.com as a paperback ($11.97) or a Kindle download ($7.47), is one of a series of Eat Like a Local books from CZYKPublishing, a publisher of travel and tourism books. It’s not a restaurant guide for tourists, although it does mention Bailey’s favorite places to grab a lobster roll or a bowl of rope-grown mussels. It’s more of a roundup of Maine food and drink, both traditional (think Moxie, whoopie pies and Indian pudding) and modern (lobsticles, craft beer and coffee shops). Mostly, it’s a look at Maine’s foodways and its cultural traditions tied to food, such as agricultural fairs and Maine Maple Sunday.

The book covers a lot of territory, including fiddleheads, red snapper hot dogs, ployes, B&M baked beans, tourtiere and tomalley. Bailey introduces readers to the old debates over fried clams (strips or bellies?) and rhubarb (vegetable or fruit?). He reminisces about going smelt fishing and picking fiddleheads with his father. There’s also the occasional dash of humor, as in the section describing Maine’s love for Allen’s Coffee Brandy: “With vodka or milk, it’s also a popular ingredient for black or white Russians, although in Maine there are many variations with their own signature names, like ‘Fat Ass in a Glass,’ or sometimes ‘A Maine Breakfast.’ When mixed with the state’s other signature beverage, Moxie, it’s called the ‘Burnt Trailer.’”

Yes, there’s the obligatory section on Maine lobsters, but Bailey also introduces readers to salmon and peas, bean hole beans, and slime eels. He gives the history of the sardine industry and Maine Italians, and writes about the decline in Maine shrimp – all in an accessible way.

In short, this is an easy, breezy – and comprehensive – introduction to Maine food. Just right for that friend from away who’s never heard of steamers or a split-top bun.

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